Preston promised £20m Levelling Up windfall by Rishi Sunak as Labour attack 'reckless, unfunded' plan

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to give £20m to 30 towns and cities across the country - including Preston - while Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said “wealth creation” is his top priority as the General Election campaign enters its second weekend.

The Conservatives have announced they would add the towns to their long-term plan for towns, taking the total number in the programme to more than 100, and local people in each area will decide how the money will be used for long-term regeneration. As part of the scheme, the Tories pledge that local people, not those in Westminster, will decide how the money will be spent.

They claim bringing decision-makers closer to the people and businesses this transformational funding will affect is an important element of this plan. Some of the other towns proposed to be added to the scheme include Tamworth, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Corby, Halifax, Bognor Regis, Newtown, Flint, Perth and Newry.

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Mr Sunak said: "We the Conservatives have a plan for towns because we know they are the beating heart of our country. This bold action will transform 30 more towns – reviving their high streets, growing their local economies and making people feel proud of the place they call home.

"Labour’s record in government shows they don’t care about towns – neglecting their needs, allowing them to decline and focusing instead on cities. Sir Keir Starmer has no plan to unlock opportunities in towns and would take us back to square one.

"Building on our strong track record of levelling up in Teesside and the Midlands, we will go further across the country to build a secure future for our children and grandchildren."

Labour has said that the funding ring-fenced by the Tories to pay for the investment into towns is the same funding that is being used for their pensions announcement and National Service plan.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader and shadow levelling up secretary, responding to the plan said: "Just days ago, Rishi Sunak raided levelling up cash to fund his teenage Dad’s Army. Today he’s back making yet another reckless unfunded spending commitment, sure to be broken as quickly as it was made.

"Everywhere you look, communities up and down the country are feeling the impact of 14 years of Tory decline: boarded-up shops, soaring bills and a widening wage gap with London. Labour will turn the page on the Conservatives’ chaos by boosting growth in every corner of the country, putting more money in people’s pockets, and giving them control over what matters."

LibDem levelling-up spokeswoman Helen Morgan said the Tories’ announcement "isn’t fooling anyone".

She said: "Their ‘levelling-up’ agenda over the last few years has pitted councils against each other and left them begging for scraps, and rural areas often failed to benefit at all. We need to see proper funding for local councils alongside more powers for them to make investments they believe in.

"Liberal Democrats will put our communities and high streets first by reforming business rates to encourage new businesses to invest in our high streets. We would invest in our rural communities properly too, rather than continuing to leave them behind like the Conservatives."